Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Guidelines for the Conduct of Police Officers on Electoral Duty

POLICE SERVICE COMMISSION
Guidelines for the Conduct of Police Officers on Electoral Duty
Abridged version
 INTRODUCTION
Police officers on electoral duties have a responsibility of ensuring that peaceful conditions are maintained at the polling and counting centres during elections and that citizen’s exercise of their franchise is carried out without fear of coercion, intimidation, violence or manipulation. To effectively discharge these function, the observation of the following guidelines is compulsory for every police officer on duty.

1.       Alertness
Police officers on electoral duty must be prompt in responding to any form of incident which could escalate if not properly handled at the polling and counting centres. He or she must be alert in noticing and preventing incidents that could lead to disruption of voting and associated electoral processes.

2.       Approachability
The police officer on election duty needs to be approachable and accessible to the voters who might need his or her assistance. Election duties provide the NPF an invaluable opportunity to contribute towards the much needed peaceful transition from one civilian to another. By performing this function credibly, the men and women of the NPF also improve the image of the organization and their relationship with Nigerians.

3.       Professionalism
The police officer must be professional in his or her demeanor and personal appearance. Polling officials, the public, election monitors and observers forms opinions about the police on the basis of the officers actions, appearance, and comportment.

4.       Maintenance of  Impartiality
Every police officer on electoral duty must avoid fraternization with any political party in any way that could be interpreted as capable of compromising their impartiality police personnel must be equally fair, courteous, and if necessary, firm to all persons in his or vicinity of deployment, without concern for the party top which they belong, their political or other opinions, religious, ethnic groups, place of origin, gender, wealth or other status. Any evidence or indication that a police officer on electoral duty showed bias towards one political party or another in any form has the potential to undermine the integrity of the elections and will be investigated by the PSC,  with disciplinary action being taken where appropriate.

5.       Fairness
Elections are usually political charged. Public sensitivities are bound to be unusually high with different people supporting different parties. The way the police officer handles a situation is liable to be interpreted differently by people of different political persuasions. Police officers on election duties must always strive to be fair to all and to avoid conduct that could be seen as high-handed, unfair or politically motivated. An officer‘s action, if viewed as excessive or un-fair, could lead to election –related conflict. Each person who witnesses the response to a given situation forms an opinion of the officer, the agency that deployed him or her, and the elections. Above all, there are also persons on the lookout for any opportunity or excuse to cause trouble. Police officers must never provide such people with an excuse to generate hostilities and cause the elections in their duty station to fail.

6.       Use of force   
(a)            Every voter has a right to life, physical and psychological integrity.
(b)            It is unlawful for a police officer to use excessive force in dealing with voters.
(c)             Force should only be used when necessary to restore law and order, prevent violence or injury to life or limb and should always be proportional to lawful objectives.
(d)            The use of force by the police officer on election duty is a very serious matter. Any such incident must be promptly documented reported to the superior officer of the officer involved.
(e)            The PSC will investigate and take appropriate action on every incident of reported use of force by officers on election duty.

7.        Communication with Superiors and Commanders
In the event of a threat to or a breakdown of law and order during election, officers on duty must immediately report the incident to their superior or commander in accordance with standard operational procedure.

8.        Awareness of the Electoral Law
(a) Every police officer on election duty is expected to have a good working knowledge of the electoral law, especially the section on the electoral offenses, which he or she is obliged to enforce. These offenses are enumerated above under the section on electoral offences.

(b)   Unit commanders have an obligation to brief and communicate contents of the electoral law to the men and women under their supervision and command

(c)    Communication of the electoral law from the unit commanders to the officers should be in a manner and at a time close enough to the election that is most likely to capture their attention and be retained.

9.         Reporting
(a) Every police officer on election duty is obliged to file a written report at the end of his or her duty period.

(b) The report should include an account of any and every incident that required police intervention at the polling centre and any other incidents that in the judgment of the reporting officer, should be brought to the attention of his superior or authorities

(c) The report should be submitted to the Superior or Commander of the unit not later than 24 hours after completion of election duties. The superior Officer to whom these reports are handed is obliged to preserve them

(d) Omission to file or destruction of such reports will be viewed as an infraction requiring disciplinary actions.

(a)    INEC, in consultation with the IGP, shall determine and inform the PSC about operational arrangements for ensuring that electoral incidents reported by Police officers on election duty acted upon effectively and promptly.

10.      Wearing of Identification Tags
Every police officer on election duty must wear his or her name and number tags in bold print, for easy identification by voters, monitors and observers.

   11.  Cooperation and Collaboration
Police officers on election duty have a duty to co- operate and collaborate with other role players in the electoral process in order to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. They are also expected to comply with lawful instructions by the presiding and returning officer.

Printed by CLEEN Foundation with support from the Open Society Initiative For West Africa (OSIWA)

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